Because we’d arrived so early the day before, we decided to sleep in a little. Yeah, alarm didn’t go off until 5am and we were on the road by 5:30. In retrospect, this cut it a little tight as we arrived at 6 and a lot of the good spots at the Flight Deck were already staked out by the monster-lensers.
We went to the very end of the Flight Deck and found a nice east-facing spot with a view over the pond. The action began right on schedule.
Immediately after the morning fly-outs, the viewpoints clear out QUICK. We noticed that the long-lensers headed out of the reserve, so we headed out to the ponds along Highway 1.
At this one sighting, I counted at least 40 photographers, each with a heavy-duty tripod, fancy tripod heads (e.g., Wimberly), and most with professional-grade DSLR’s and a minimum of a 600mm lens. THEN, most of them also had a backup, which was yet another DSLR but with a 100-400 lens, dangling from their bodies. This is like $600,000 of equipment at ONE pond. Sheesh !
But back to the birds. This was a pretty good sighting – sun rising to our backs, good angle on the cranes who took flight every minute or so.
After the pond, we headed in to the Marsh Loop, where we found a nice pond with some mallards, pintails, and a few deer in the background.
From there we headed out to the Farm Loop, where we found a large flock of white geese. They looked anxious, so we decided to hunker down and wait for them to take flight. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have the patience for birding. I didn’t know how long this “wait” was going to take, and it was COLD (about 40F) with wind blowing at our backs. After about a half hour, I retrieved some donuts from the car and POOF, the entire flock took flight. Even with a donut in my left hand, I was able to snap a few good shots.
By now it was around 10:30am, so we decided to head back to town. We’d seen some signs for “VLA – Very Large Array” so we decided to take the 40 mile drive into the middle of nowhere.
Did I mention that it was cold?
Despite its depiction in movies, the Very Large Array does not in fact listen for alien life forms. Harumph.
We didn’t make it back to the reserve until around 3, so we headed to the Farm Loop to find a patch of birds. Our theory was that since they all seem to overnight in the pond, if we found a flock, they would likely take flight.
Apparently no one told the flock of cranes that we were watching. They were hunkered down. We watched a hawk for a bit, and spotted a skunk in the field too. When they finally did depart, they left in groups of 10-20. Blech !
It got dark a little after 5, so we packed up and headed towards the front gate. THIS is when everything in the park decides to become active. In addition to several deer sightings, we had an amazing sighting of the flocks flying back to the Flight Deck against an orange sky. Apologies for the vehicle antennae in the shot
At least we know where they will be in the morning.